Former Glendale Bar Assn. president Eugene M. Giometti was charged last week with 25 felony counts of grand theft, embezzlement and forgery as a result of a police investigation into allegations that he misappropriated more than $150,000 of his clients' money for personal use.
The criminal complaint filed in Pasadena Municipal Court charges that Giometti, 39, forged checks over a two-year period in order to embezzle sums ranging from $400 to $67,000 from nine clients.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, but it is unclear what the maximum penalty under conviction on all charges would be, since there are laws limiting consecutive sentences on those counts, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert W. Court.
Lawyer to Surrender
Giometti is expected to surrender to the court the first week of August when Deputy Dist. Atty. Walter H. Lewis, who will lead the prosecution in Giometti's case, returns from vacation, said Giometti's lawyer, Richard Helphand.
"He is living with his mother and father part time," Helphand said. The attorney said police know that his client "is not going to run."
One of Glendale's most notable lawyers, Giometti was president of the Glendale Bar Assn. in 1980 and 1981. He was named man of the year by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce in 1983.
Giometti's problems surfaced in March when records of disbarment procedures against the lawyer were revealed in Glendale Superior Court. An investigation of Giometti's legal practice by Glendale police began soon after court records were unsealed.
Bar Alerted to Discrepancies
According to court documents, the Glendale Bar Assn. began investigating Giometti's practice in October after employees and co-workers of the lawyer alerted the association to possible financial discrepancies in Giometti's accounts.
An investigative committee of the association met with Giometti and his psychologist in January, according to court records. The committee was told that Giometti's financial problems stemmed from "mental and emotional problems arising in part from alcohol dependency," the Superior Court records show.
Concluding that Giometti's drinking problem made him unable to continue his practice, the association petitioned the court to keep him from practicing law.
In January, Giometti's practice was placed under the control of Superior Court. He was given until Feb. 3 to remove his personal belongings from his North Maryland Avenue office.
In March, Giometti was ordered to stop practicing law by the California State Bar, and shortly after he resigned from the association. His resignation still must be reviewed by the state Supreme Court before it is final, California State Bar officials said Tuesday.
Most of the 100 outstanding cases left from Giometti's personal-injury and family-law practice have been assigned to other lawyers, said Denis M. O'Rourke, president of the Glendale Bar Assn.
Many of the clients whose funds allegedly were taken have filed claims for reimbursement under the California State Bar's Client Security Fund, which repays individual losses up to $50,000, said O'Rourke. The claims will take up to a year to review, O'Rourke said.